Friday, October 28, 2011

Making Ajvar

It has been a long time since I spent an entire day working outside.  We have had some dreary, gray days lately, but this day was an exception.  It was sunny, but cool --
a perfect day in Skopje.

The big occasion for this all-day outing was
"making Ajvar" with Habibe.
Actually, the whole family got involved.

Ajvar (pronounced I-Var) is a declicious, roasted, red-pepper paste
---  a traditional Albanian-Macedonian specialty.

We began with small ovens - heated to perfection. 
Agim is very good at knowing just how hot to make the fire.

We roasted 52 kilos of red peppers (that is a little over 100 lbs.)
until they were black on the outside and juicy on the inside.

After they were taken off the fire and cooled a bit, we began the process of peeling the peppers and taking all the seeds out.
We had several large pans full of red pepper skins when we were finished with this part.

The peppers were then processed, along with very hot green peppers.  Habibe added garlic, a little salt and a little olive oil.
We had 2 large blue vats of processed peppers to cook on the two small traditional stoves.  One vat had just the red peppers and the other had a combination of peppers, roasted eggplant and cooked carrots.  The second vat is a specialty of Habibe's.

Cooking the peppers is the longest part of the process.
The vats have to be stirred continuously for over 3 hours on top of the hot ovens. 
 Everybody took their turn during this part of the cooking.

At times it splatters, so it is a good idea to wear an apron
for this part.  Of course the men didn't believe us and got splatter with hot pepper sauce a few times.

Once the sauce reaches that deciding moment when it is ready to be taken off the fire,
(Habibe is an expert at this, too)
the vats are removed and the canning process begins.

Of course, everyone needed to taste-test each vat's contents before this final stage of preserving the ajvar is done.

And it is YUMMY!!!

I told Arville that I would like to try to make ajvar once we get to the states - and he just rolled his eyes at me.
I think I might have to talk someone else into doing this with me if I decide to do it again.